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Celia Corbin

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In spite of Great Britain’s recent departure from the European Union, London as the melting pot of races, religions, cultures, lifestyles, and foods is expected to remain one of the continent’s top tourist draws. Unlike what other people think, London is not as expensive as how it is portrayed in the media. As long as you have an idea of where to stay, how to go around and where to eat ahead of time, the city can be a haven for the usually budget-conscious traveler.

Your backpacking adventure to one of the busiest cities in the world would not be complete without trying some of its famous and affordable gastro treats. Below are some of the backpacker must try’s while in London.

Bao of Central London
Located along Lexington in Central London’s SOHO community, this Asian fusion restaurant used to operate along the streets of the business district until its popularity amongst locals and travelers prompted owners to open a casual service restaurant.

The name was derived from the Taiwanese “gua bao,” which means white and fluffy buns. One must not underestimate Bao’s signature slider dishes though. These soft Asian breads are stuffed with some of the most well-loved Asian favorites like braised pork with peanut powder. Other of Bao’s famous sliders include chicken marinated in soymilk, wrapped with burger baps with kimchi and Sichuan mayonnaise.

For as low as $5, you can have a serving of these deli buns to get you through lunch or dinner.

North London
Up north, you can head down to Franks Canteen in Highbury Park. The best time to go is during breakfast and lunch when you can try their kedgeree, a spiced rice served with smoked haddock and poached egg.

East London
In East London, Chick ‘n’ Sours is making a name for being a party place for locals and travelers. The best time to go is during the weekends after sunset. Their famous Southern style, buttermilk-marinated fried chicken, is easy on the pocket, you can even order one cocktail drink to complete your night’s fill.

South London
If you are in the mood for affordable yet filling street food, you can head on to the South at the Brockley market. With more or less $10, you can either have Luardo’s meat burritos, Spit and Roast’s fried chicken or Van Dough’s authentic Italian pizza. Most travelers are advised to visit right before closing time at two in the afternoon to get a good bargain on full meals.

Tea Rooms
Your London experience would not be complete without engaging in the country’s favorite pastime – tea drinking. While there are probably hundreds of tea rooms in London, you would want to try a lazy afternoon at the Highness Café and Tea Room while sipping a hot tea and a dessert for your side.

Located in Highbury Park, you have the option of having your tea at the cozy and quiet mezzanine level of the café, or you can head downstairs to experience the amiable buzz of Englishmen drinking their favorite tea. An herb-infused tea and a slice of a traditional carrot cake would only cost a little over $6.

When visiting France, the backpacker’s first instinct would be to explore the popular, well-loved city of Paris. Sure, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Musée du Louvre and many charming bistros and patisseries. However, if you want to have a taste of fresh, sparkling champagne, you must visit Reims.

Planning for the Trip

All you need to get to this beautiful and time-honored city is to hop on a train at Paris’ Gare de l’Est. You have about an hour and a half to prepare yourself to begin tasting some bubbly.

The trip may be fairly easy, but do note that most champagne houses will require you to make reservations well in advance. This is, therefore, not an experience you can get at the spur of the moment. You may want to give your chosen champagne house a call in advance.

Many large champagne houses like Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin offer tasting tours that mix history, production and samples. But tour prices in these popular houses tend to be a bit steep, at least €15 and above.

The backpacker’s secret to finding a good champagne tasting experience is to visit the lesser-known houses and villages just out of town. These houses tend to be rustic, at least in comparison to the splendor of large champagne houses. However, they’re a great way to get to know a different side – but just as delicious – side of France.

Champagne M. Brugnon

Tour and Tasting Price: Free

First on our list is Champagne M. Brugnon in the commune of Ecueil, a ten to twenty minute drive from the Reims city center. The Brugnon family has been creating champagne for five generations. The family champagne house was then established by Maurice Brugnon 70 years ago. They offer a free tour, which includes a taste of four of their vintages.

As you might expect from such an old and intimate house, the good-natured owner Alain Brugnon is passionate about wine. He usually takes time to conduct tours through the vineyard and give you an in-depth explanation of the process of making bubbly. Our favorite part? How Mr. Brugnon takes time to explain the interconnectivity of everyone in the champagne-making process, from the small grape growers to the production houses.

R. Blin & Sons Champagne

Tour and Tasting Price: Free

Another intimate, family-run champagne house is R. Blin & Sons Champagne, found in Trigny, a cheerful little commune about twenty minutes west northwest of the Reims city center. Like Champagne M. Brugnon, they also offer a free and friendly tour that will most likely be conducted by one of the Mr. Blins!

They’re pretty well-versed in the art of champagne-making, which you will see from their in-depth explanations. The tour itself is an in-depth journey through the process, taking you from the grape to the bottle.

Pré en Bulles

Tour and Tasting Price: €7

If you’re willing to try something different and go a bit further from Reims, try visiting the commune of Trépail. It is a thirty-minute drive southeast of the city center. There, you will find Pré en Bulles, a museum dedicated to champagne! For an entrance fee of €7, although you can knock down the price to €6 for large groups, you can view the innovative exhibit dedicated to the creation and glorification of champagne. After this spectacle, you may proceed to a sampling of local champagne.

 

Apart from its world-famous landmarks and museums, Paris is flocked by travelers from all over the globe because of its astonishing array of gourmet restaurants and cafés. However, some people fail to experience French gourmet because of the general idea that it is expensive. The truth is, gourmet doesn’t need to be, and for the past years, this has become apparent in the streets of the culinary capital of the world. Even backpackers with a reputation for staying way below their travel budgets would agree in this claim.

If you are heading out to Paris anytime soon, you would certainly want to include the following gourmet establishments in your itinerary.

Hidden Foodie Treasure
Run by a religious charity group, Foyer de La Madeleine is a hidden foodie treasure in Place de Madeleine. Located in one of the churches’ passageways, the restaurant is a favorite of many tourists, shoppers, office workers, pensioners, and students. During lunchtime, expect the 300 pax dining areas of the restaurant packed with this exciting mix of patrons.

On your first visit, you may be charged a one-time membership fee of $7. But it will be worth it as you would have numerous chances on different days of trying French food classics like the red herring served with potato salad and oeuf mayonnaise. You can also try their cod in tomato sauce cooked using the traditions of the French Basques. If you fancy a simple dish, the restaurant also serves grilled chicken glazed with lemon sauce.

Vegetarian Street Food
Located in the Jewish neighborhood of Le Marais, this sandwich shop is known to serve one of the world’s best falafels. It’s even recommended by famous singer Lenny Kravitz. If you are in the mood for some fresh greens and deep, fried Falafels wrapped in hot pita bread and served with your choice of dressing, head on to this shop. Just makes sure that you’ve packed enough energy and patience to keep up with the long queue to the shop’s order window.

Asian in Paris
When in Paris, food is not all about the French classics. As the food melting pot of the world, you can easily be transported to the Orient when you try Asian restaurants lining its busy streets without shelling out too much of your money. There is the Asian vegetarian restaurant Tien Hiang in Rue Bichat and the Japanese ramen house Higuma at the Palais Royal.

Breads and Pastries
Your French gourmet experience would not be complete without tasting any of their world-favorite breads and pastries. While going around the city, you’d come across countless shops offering freshly-baked goods. But you might want to be particular with this pastry shop owned by one of France’s most respected chefs, Cyril Lignac. With four restaurant and pastry shops, La Patisserie by Cyril Lignac serves freshly-baked organic baguettes, loaves, sweet pastries and cakes.

Chocolate
Lastly, ending your day with a cup of real hot French chocolate would make your food experience in France genuinely memorable. Highly-recommended is the one served by Angelina, which is located along Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre museum.

Bali is known for its beautiful beaches, yoga culture, and it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. It is filled with geological wonders and natural beauty. You can find romantic restaurants and fascinating infinity pools around the area, and it provides a one-of-a-kind dining experience for its visitors. But there are a few basic things you should know before you go to Bali.

From the Airport
It is best to take a taxi from Bali airport to your hotel. Taxi fares from the airport usually range from $10 to $57 depending on the location. You can also hire a private car service, but that’s obviously a lot more expensive.

Currency
The currency of Bali is an Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). You can do a currency exchange at the airport and many are located near the customs office.

SIM Cards
You can get Telkomsel Simpati SIM cards at the Bali Airport for only $11.45. You can also find XL and Indosat SIM cards at the airport for around 38 cents, but you have to load some text and call credits to the card to use it.

Luggage Storage
There’s a luggage storage system at the Bali airport. You can store your bags for $1.53 a day.

How to Get Around Bali
Ojek: a motorbike that takes you around town for $1.53
Taxi: taxis in Bali are relatively cheap. In fact, you can travel from Kuta to Seminyak for under $4. The best taxi company for tourists and expats is the Blue Bird Taxi.
Bemo: Bemo is a minibus, and it is the most common mode of transportation in Bali. The fare is about $4.
Dokar: less common these days are dokars (pony wagons) if you opt for a romantic experience.

Spots for Foodies and Adventure Seekers
Bali is a city of adventure. If you have an adventurous spirit, there are a lot of things that you can do in Bali. You can join the bike tour around the rice fields in a traditional Balinese village for only $29. You can visit the Bali Butterfly Park for only $5, or the UNESCO site called the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces which is truly stunning.

If you want to eat authentic Indonesian food, you should visit the famous Balinese restaurant called Kampoeng Bali. It replicates the ancient food handling traditions in a classic Balinese village. Plus, it showcases the rich culture of Indonesia through song, dance, and dramatic performances. If you want to dine above water, it’s a good idea to go to Bale Undang which is located in Ubud and Kuta. The restaurant has a great view and amazing food.

Bali is known as one of the top surfing destinations in the world. If you’re into surfing, you should visit Bali from October to April.

Balinese Culture
Bali is tied to its religion which is Shivaite or Balinese Hinduism. The country is known for its culture, dance, and drama. It is also known for the Wayang Kulit or shadow play. The display of breasts in Bali is not considered immodest. You can easily see a Balinese woman displaying her breasts, but oddly, the display of thigh is deemed to be immodest.

You can also explore the famous Balinese temples such as the Pura Taman Ayun, Pura Ulun Danu, Pura Besakih, Pura Tirta Empul, and Pura Tanah Lot. If you’re the spiritual type, you can sign up for a yoga retreat in Ubud.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the top destinations in Asia. It is the home of the beautiful Petronas Towers and other tourist attractions such as the Menara KL tower, Jalan Petaling, Batu Caves, Sultan Abdul Samal building, the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, and many other attractions.
Here are a few things you ought to know before you go to the diverse city of Kuala Lumpur.

From the Airport
You can take the Kuala Lumpur shuttle from the airport for $3. You can also take the taxi which will cost you around $18.00 and would take about 50 minutes to get to the center of the city. If you want to travel in style, you can take the limo for about $94.
The currency used in Kuala Lumpur is called Malaysian Ringgit. You can do the currency exchange at the airport and also in other touristy spots around the city. You can buy Celcom (XPAX), Maxis (Hotlink), DiGi, and U Mobile SIM cards at the airport. These cards cost around $6.22 and come with free local texts and calls.

The KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) offers luggage storage services for the following rates:

Number of Days Price
1 to 6 days $4.48 per day
7 to 14 days $3.73 per day
15 to 24 days $3.23 per day

Getting Around Kuala Lumpur

To get around Kuala Lumpur, you can take the KL LRT (Light Rail Transit) or the KLIA express train service. You can buy an all-day LRT pass for only $1.74 or 7 RM. The traffic is really bad in Kuala Lumpur though so it’s best to avoid taxis and buses around 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and between 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can also rent a car and drive around the city. The taxi fare is 75 cents for the first two minutes and then the meter will charge you 5 cents every 45 seconds.

Kuala Lumpur Culture

Kuala Lumpur is the cultural center of Peninsular Malaysia. It is composed of three dominant races — Indians, Chinese, and Malays. Most Malaysians live in the outskirts. The national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia which is a little similar to the Indonesian language. Malaysians love to weave fabrics and produce beautiful handicrafts.

Spots for Foodies and Adventure Seekers

If you’re a foodie, you should definitely visit the Golden Triangle or the Nasi Kandar Pelita which is located near the Petronas Towers. Nasi Kandar serves Indian Muslim foods such as curried cuttlefish, tangy beef rending, and pucuk paku (fern leaves).
If you’re the adventurous type, you should definitely do indoor rock climbing at Camp5 Climbing Gym. You could also try orbing ball at “First in Malaysia.” Other extreme activities include paintball or driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) at Extreme Park.

I read that there were topless beaches in Tahiti but after exploring several beaches and traversing through the mountains around the island, I thought it was only a myth. That is until I came to this topless beach.

My friend and I planned to spend Sunday hanging out but she and I thought we’d wing it. She picks me up at the Papeete City Marina around 10 a.m., and we begin walking along the main road hoping someone wouldn’t mind picking up a couple of pretty hitchhikers. 😉

We didn’t wait long before a French transplant, and two-year resident picked us up in his car. We told him we planned to go to this white sand beach, and at first, he was hesitant about going out of his way to take us there, but then quickly had the look of “f*ck it” that he changed his plans to drop us off. Score!

It was about a twenty-minute drive to the beach, and he begins sharing his perspective on the dark side of Tahiti advising we should hide our cell phones if we ever go out to a certain hangout point where teens tend to hang out on Sunday evenings. A bit strange, but I get where he’s coming from.

After we get dropped off, I notice a SUP stand offering rentals for 1500 xfp. It wasn’t crowded, and we found a perfect spot in the shade to lay out. It wasn’t long before I was gazing around that I noticed it was a topless beach. Right on. I love how super casual topless beach cultures are. There are women of all shapes and sizes, people with families, couples, and just single ladies like ourselves who don’t blink an eye with this. Tan line free zone as far as I’m concerned. Why aren’t more Americans relaxed this way? It’s quite a change from my time in Indonesia where I had to cover from head to toe!

We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and I had a chance to work on those tan lines on my back before we decide to explore our way along the rocky beach to satisfy our ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ thirsty palettes.

We reach Le Meridien Hotel Resort (about 2 km walk from where we were) and conclude our day with a sunset and Happy Hour.

bungalows

We’re still a bit far from Papeete and decide to hitch a ride back. It was only seconds after getting back onto the main road that a couple of cute guys picked us up and dropped us off as far as they were going. Then another few minutes before a couple picked us up and offered us a few roadies (completely legal here!) while they drove us into town – not to mention great music! At this moment, I love Tahiti! 🙂

When in Singapore, the best bet of any self-respecting foodie is to forget the fancy restaurants, at least for a while. If you want to get to know the Lion City, hawker food is where it’s at. Cheap, tasty and surprisingly diverse, it’s everything a backpacker wants in a meal.

To be honest, it’s extremely difficult to pick just a few dishes from the mind-numbing assortment that is available. But since it would take forever for us to finish enumerating the best of hawker fare, we’ll just stick to our absolute favorites. Make sure to have a taste of these, but don’t be shy of expanding your palate to other stalls that you find around the city.

Laksa

Price per Serving: around $4

We just cannot say enough good things about laksa. It’s a spicy rice noodle soup with a mix of coconut milk, beancurd puffs, fish, shrimp and cockles. It is at once satisfying and flavorful and we’re pretty sure will quickly become one of your go-to meals.

Our favorite laksa place is Sungei Roak Laksa, located somewhere between the New World Centre and Avant Theatre. It’s not as rich as other laksas, which can only mean that you’ll be coming back for a second serving.

Carrot Cake

Price per Serving: around $5

This certainly isn’t your typical carrot cake. It’s crispy, savory and doesn’t contain any carrot at all. Instead, it’s made with the visually similar daikon, which is grated, mixed with eggs and flour, and fried until crispy and golden brown. You’ll want to try carrot cake from different places, as each stall throws in its own mix of flavorings and toppings.

One of the best carrot cake places out there is Fu Ming Carrot Cake, located in the Redhill Food Centre. Here, they flavor their carrot cakes with a drizzle of soy sauce. Simple, but it allows the natural flavor and texture of the carrot cake to shine through.

Pork Rib Soup

Price per Serving: around $4

Perhaps calling this a soup is inaccurate. Locals actually call it pork rib tea. At first glance you may see why. It looks like nothing more than pork bones and scraps boiled in water. One taste, however, and you’ll be completely blown away by the complexity of flavor in this simple soup.

Each stall has a different spice mix so it’s hard to choose which one is our favorite. However, we do highly recommend Leong Kee Bak Kut The, which is not too far away from the National Stadium. Leong Kee serves Malaysian-style pork rib tea, which is more strongly flavored with herbs than most.

Kaya Toast

Price per Serving: around $4

While you’re in Singapore, you must try the quintessential Singaporean breakfast, kaya toast. It’s basically layers of bread toasted and slathered with coconut jam in between. It’s absolutely delicious on its own, but most Singaporeans prefer to eat it with soft-boiled eggs and a choice of either coffee or tea.

If you’re a kaya toast newbie, you must try Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which has over 40 outlets all over Singapore. If kaya toast isn’t your thing, you can opt for French toast or what they call “toastwiches”, also served with classic eggs and a hot beverage.

I’m stuck in paradise. It’s been an incredible ordeal being stuck in paradise, and I slap myself each time I hear myself complaining about being stuck in paradise. But what I’ve learned over and over this last year is that paradise is never really paradise!

It’s been a couple of months since I first arrived in Pape’ete, Tahiti. My new cruiser family and I met here in mid-May and then took a flight to Apataki Atoll to pick up the captain’s newly purchased Lagoon 450 catamaran. We were only supposed to be in Apataki for less than a week, but then the Apataki Carenage (boatyard operation) gave our anti-Fallon necessary to paint the hull to another boat owner. That held us up an additional week until we could have a new one delivered.

We finally made it back to Pape’ete on June 8th with plans to stick around for less than a week. But, when we were going through some final boat inspections a few days later, we noticed a battery leaked on the life raft. After taking it in to be serviced, it was confirmed that the entire life raft would have to be replaced. Okay, that’s fine. We’ll just pick one around here, right? Wrong. The closest one we could find was all the way in Kiwi land in New Zealand.

What should have been a 4-day replacement process has turned into over a month due to email miscommunication and a lack of urgency with the execution on getting it here. What’s so important about the life raft? I’m sure there are at least a ½ dozen movies out there where a character has to abandon ship, and the life raft is their only chance at survival. Because we’re going on an approximate 14-day voyage to Tonga soon, you can understand why it’s important we have a working one of these.

The life raft actually arrived last Wednesday, but now it has to go through customs to clear. Lovely! Another process. Customs should only take a couple of days, but now we’re on island time with a holiday thrown into the mix. ☺

Why am I complaining so much about being stuck in paradise? Isn’t this an opportune time to explore towering waterfalls and chiseled pro-surfer bodies? Not exactly. French Polynesia is the most expensive place I’ve traveled since I quit my corporate job in September. I cry each time I see the 1050 xpf ($10 USD) sticker label at the Carrefour supermarché for one green bell pepper. Our “cat” is parked conveniently in front of dozens of retail and souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants! Ugh, somebody hang onto my crisp francs, please! I burned through $55 USD for 2GB of mobile wifi service in 30 minutes because it’s as slow as molasses here. The upside is I feel like I got a little bone thrown my way when I purchased a one-hour hot spot card for $5 USD and since then the WiFi Gods have mysteriously hooked me up in an “unlimited” sort of way. Suh-weet! At least I get one win.

The point is that I’m constantly tempted to be a consumer here. I’m finding the temptation to consume more material goods, and I’m getting accustomed to the luxury things in life again – like brand-name makeup, fancy shampoo, and great coffee. So is paradise really paradise when your old and unnecessary consumer habits return? I’ll let you answer that for you, but right now it’s not for me. I like having less. Less is more…more money in my bank account that is!

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